By Ankita Purohit

What is an emotional abuse and how to deal with it?

It is a common belief that spotting a person who has (recently) gone through abuse isn’t difficult. We notice signs like bruises and marks if he or she has ever had traumatic experiences like beating, hitting, punching, etc.

But most of us aren’t familiar with the subtle ways of being abused, despite being so common. It does not necessarily involve physically thrashing someone, but more like using mind control techniques. These manipulation methods are capable to emotionally dismantle an individual to the point of feeling worthless if he or she has been the target victim for a substantial number of months or years. Moreover, it is highly likely that they suffer from chronic depression or PTSD which torment them for a lifetime. This is because emotional abuse is proven to be more difficult to cope up compared to its physical abuse counterpart.

This certainly does not imply that it is impossible to thrive later in life, but the person first needs to recognize it that he or she has been emotionally abused, and it is high time to escape. Consider the following points to know more about it.

emotional bullying

Signs of emotional abuse

1. You ‘used to be’ treated respectfully – Yes, good days were there and you felt like on Cloud 9. You expected great life ahead because your ‘partner’ showered you with ‘roses’ during the beginning of the relationship. The ‘relationship’ does not need to be of romantic type. It could happen among siblings or with parents or work colleagues. Among family members, people spend time together for a significant number of years before they become independent and live separately. The good phase come in the very early years in which the children were still growing, and they knew nothing about the mind games. The parents were still discovering their children. In other words, the respect that everyone deserved, was there!

2. The ‘good phase’ ended too soon – So, your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse was very kind and compassionate towards you during early months, and now it seems like a roller-coaster ride, isn’t it? You wake up anxious in the morning because you fear that your partner might again act over-dramatic and demanding because you did not say/behave in the manner they wanted. Simply put, you fail to make them happy and their complaints seem unstoppable.

In case of a childhood friend or immediate family member(s), the abuser would treat you the same and you simply hope that “the day” would come when you have “an adult conversation” that would sort things out. And you keep on waiting till eternity.

3. Spoiled child – You have this sense that a three-year-old toddler or a teenager is around you even if that ‘child’ is actually an adult, and he/she is treating you as his/her child by blackmailing or scolding you quite regularly. He or she will have little concerns about how you feel and will definitely do things that you dislike the most just to make an attempt to hurt you.

For instance, if they know that you hate smoking and smoking cigarettes inside the house premises is not a good idea. Guess what! They will do this even more often even if the house contains children or you have asthma. Reacting to this incidence will amplify their behavior because you actually provided them that psychological “supply” that these shallow creatures crave regularly. They adore drama and chaos and without pissing you off they cannot sleep peacefully!

Do not expect them to feel the guilt about their treatment towards you. Their face will remain calm and you would observe yourself being the maniac.

4. You are a slave – Regardless of your age or position, or even physical/mental condition, the abuser would never miss a chance to enslave you. You won’t even consciously get aware of this but eventually, you would dance in his/her tunes. For instance, they would order you to make them a cup of coffee or do the dishes, despite being physically exhausted or are extremely unwell, or pregnant and need a complete bed rest.

If you don’t do things as they please, get ready for the consequences, which would perhaps be passive-aggression or temper tantrums that you (both) know you fear the most. What you do next is to avoid arguments much as possible and tolerate all their non-sensical behavior just to maintain the peace.

5. There are no boundaries – Your journals, text messages, emails, Facebook chats are being read without your consent and awareness. Your personal belongings that are dear to you might suddenly get “lost”, or perhaps hidden or stolen. Even if you find out sooner or later, they would behave as if it was their right to do that with no guilt, shame or remorse.

Moreover, if you warned them to stay away from your life because some of their behaviors made you upset and you cannot take this drama anymore, they won’t obey you at all. They may show up surprisingly anywhere. They do not understand what personal boundaries are. They want to show you that you can’t control them, and they do what they please. Your opinions and orders don’t matter!

emotional abuse

6. Your secrets are spoken – If you said something about yourself to this person which is too embarrassing to admit in front of the whole world, he or she will spread that secret, no matter if he or she is biologically related or simply a childhood friend, or a life partner. So, those who think that only a stranger is capable to betray you need to learn more about the human psychology. This obviously does not mean that your spouse or family member will definitely speak/do something mean; nevertheless one needs to learn that these kinds of individuals do exist and that could be anyone irrespective of who they are.

7. Denials and blame games – If you manage to confront this person about his/her sick mannerisms they will blatantly deny it. You cannot even show them your rationality with evidence since they will deflect the subject or seem extremely uninterested, or remain in their denial mode. What’s more annoying is – they blame you for their bad behavior!

For instance, you caught your spouse flirting with other men/women and then you got upset. When you ask why they do this, they will plainly reply by your unattractive/fat/ugly appearance, and that they lost interest in you, or you have been so boring in all these years. This is an attempt to lose your self-esteem. They will repeatedly say about your “looks” and you will ultimately believe their statements. You will try really hard to please this person so that they won’t go anywhere. They may seem charming and interested in you one time and disinterested the next. Their ON/OFF responses will confuse you to the core and you may feel going crazy.

8. The “Joke” – This particular part is only known to the abuser and his/her target victim. The other people around won’t get “the joke” which is actually sarcasm. The statements would usually be about your image in your workplace, or that embarrassing moment when you sang a song, or your ‘ugly’ nose, or your choice of outfits/shoes/life partner, or your stupidity when you blindly trusted certain people who betrayed you later, and quite much everything about you that are regarded as turn-off. You name it! They know how to push your “buttons”.

In general, we hate these kinds of topics and the abusers actually thrive by bringing them back with no regard for your sentiments. The other people in front of whom you get consistent insults would perhaps ignore and wouldn’t bother to take your side either because even they cannot see through it, OR do not want to create a scene.

On the contrary, you cannot make jokes. Even if that joke is plainly a joke, they would still take it as an insult or intimidation. Since you won’t be able to speak or act in the way you please, you will soon feel like your body language and each word is carefully monitored in order to pinpoint the blunder. Walking on eggshells would be a more specific phrase for this.

9. Guilt trips – Have you ever heard like this, “You do not love me anymore”, “You are not the same person that you used to be”, “I am disappointed because……..”? These are the attempts to make you feel guilty of something that you did not do.

Obviously, you always had loved this person, but they fail to put themselves in your shoes. They are extremely unkind and incapable to feel the empathy that you have. Apologizing and then repeating the same mistake over an over again for many years is like – “Your sentiments are not valued and you are naive if you believe in apologies. It is plainly done to manipulate you into trusting me again just to end up being offended”.

It is very common (especially) among couples to speak that at times but the major difference between healthy and unhealthy relationship is that the emotionally sound individuals respect each other and would not shamelessly do something that causes hurt. Moreover, they would apologize if they did something wrong since both of them value each other with the same magnitude. This is not the case with the unhealthy ones.

10. Gaslighting – Gaslighting is one of the common mind manipulation techniques that is usually executed by sociopaths, psychopaths, and those who have severe personality disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

It is a mechanism in which the offender is going to recreate your memory and you would end up confused whether you should believe your guts or that person. This is done with such an extensive confidence that the target victim(s) would feel as if they partly/totally forgot certain events. If done a number of times, the person who is being targeted no longer trusts himself/herself. You will question your reality!

For example, your spouse bought a brand new car and you did not like it. You clearly remember that you always told him/her that you disliked that vehicle and would never consider it to buy. On the contrary, your partner claims that you both had already discussed and both of you had come up with a conclusion the day before that that car would be final. You are now confused what to believe! Did you really forget it? Or the other party is the real culprit behind who is messing with your head?

An emotionally sound individual will never get confused. But if a person is under the constant influence, the possibility of losing their sanity elevates to many folds.


How to deal with emotional abuse?

First of all, get educated. Search for more terms on the Internet and find out more what it exactly is. If you are lucky, you might also detect the disorder your partner might have. Then find a way to escape as soon as possible. This is the ONLY way to start your healing journey. You may not believe your eyes in the beginning and that is OK. Nevertheless, you have to accept it.

Know that your partner cannot be fixed because he/she had never dealt with his/her emotions in a practical way when they felt broken in their early years. Since they are contented with what they currently do, it is highly unlikely that they would ever consciously address it and try to rectify. Know that they are not guilty and they will never be guilty until their last breath. In order to remedy a problem, a person should be courageous enough to truly take responsibility for everything they have done till date. Their willingness to improvise is important, which is least likely. These kinds of people are even capable to bluff the counselor, so we cannot be really sure whether (or not) they would get cured.

You may also find him/her apologizing to you later when you try to escape. This is just another trivial attempt to take back the remote control so that you keep being their puppet. Lots of victims lose their self-worth so drastically that they develop the habit of co-dependency. In many other cases, they have to be dependent because of finances, legal issues, involvement of children, etc. In that case, they should first plan how to do it. For instance, if you don’t have money then try to figure out how would you earn; find a new place to stay if you plan for divorce, and so on.

Take help if possible. You must seek help from a close friend or a relative who you trust and are willing to get involved. Also consider psychiatric help from certified professionals who deal with those clients who had been emotionally abused. Counseling does help to recover entirely, no matter how much broken you feel inside and to what extent it sounds difficult in the beginning. Positive surrounding is a must without which the cure cannot happen the way it ought to be. You may also join Yoga or meditation classes, or perhaps gymnasium, or other hobby classes.

Everyone has a different coping mechanism. Their ability to thrive in life depends on many factors. Stay positive and believe that you are strong enough to deal with everything. Rest WILL fall into place, sooner or later, and you will be able to regain back your confidence and self-esteem!

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